Wasabi or curry?

After watching Iron Chef and Iron Chef America so many times, there’s no way I’m passing up the oppurtunity to dine at a restaurant by Morimoto. He’s branched into the Indian market with Wasabi (unoriginal name) at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai upstairs from the city’s first licensed bar. I’m curious to see if the dishes are tuned to an Indian palate, if it’s a more straightforward portrait of his usual eclectic plating, or a Japanese representation.

Starting the meal we have an amuse bouche trio  consisting of edamame, whole shrimp on a lobster puff with a spicy sauce, and in the middle a chilled tofu with a truffle ponzu sauce. Did you notice, these are arranged to form the Indian flag?

According to my wife, the toro tartare turned out to be disappointing. She was expecting the cool fresh taste of tuna, but it turned out to be salty from the miso broth base and the caviar. The smooth texture was ruined by the crunchy rice balls because they didn’t provide the contrast that his similar dishes in other restaurants have, mostly because they get all mixed in.

Tuna Pastrami sounded intriguing, and it was worthy of the name. Lovely ahi tuna was lightly smoked and crusted with peppercorn and sliced formed into a rose. Served with four different types of meaty spices, this is a complex dish: a salsa verde, a smokey soy barbecue sauce, cayanne dry spice rub, and a wasabi mayo. Finishing it off was fresh honeydew to cleanse the palate.

Two perfectly cooked scallops sit on top of two perfectly cooked al-dente chicken and scallop gyozas. Drenching it is a typical gyoza sauce laced with toasted nuts, and on the side, a dollop each of the same wasabi mayo and a tomato sauce. Finishing the garnish is a ring crisp made of pumpkin, a nice homage to a popular pre-dinner snack commonly found in this area of India.

Again though, my wife was a little disappointed in her choice. The plating of this langoustien and tofu dish was exquisite. The roasted shishito pepper was delicious, and the tofu gets great marks for being a totally different recipe topped with masago (roe) and wakame broth was rich in umami while a simple tofu dish. But the langoustien was a let down. The tempora was thick and soggy, and the same spicey sauce from earlier overwhelmed the dish, leaving what should be a wonderfully sweet shellfish completely unidentifiable.

A typical sushi trio of a white fish, fatty tuna, and salmon along with a spicy salmon roll has rice that’s overly cold, and the fish shows how difficult it must be to get sushi-grade product in this city. The texture is good, but the quality not what we’d expect. The real wasabi grated fresh at the table was a nice touch, but not enough to overcome what should have been a more appreciable dish given the name of the chef on the door.

The hottest miso soup I’ve ever been served comes with two beautiful clams floating in it, and a rubbery langoustine claw that’s been overcooked because of the heat of the broth.

These slightly over cooked (medium instead of medium rare) lamb chops are heavily peppered, then sit on a bed of green onions and turnips, then  excessively slathered with that same soy barbecue sauce from earlier. This is an unfortunately poorly executed take on a great idea.

A generous serving of cod is sweet and buttery, but at the same time, a bit salty. The opposite of the lamb, it’s just slightly undercooked, making it difficult to break apart cleanly with chopsticks.

Served on the side of the cod and lamb is a savory truffle rice out of a beautiful wood and cast iron steamer. We counted at least six different mushrooms (truffle, shiitake, inoki, morel, straw, and one we couldn’t name) but it’s just getting too heavy at this point in the meal and goes half-uneaten.

Dessert was gorgeous, but a little disjointed in flavors. A light ice cream was served with a granola, an unnecessary gooseberry, a smear of berry compote, and what can eat be described as a choco-taco with hazelnut piping.

A waxy matcha dome covers ice cream, and hot chocolate is poured on top but fails to melt through as intended.  Even though it didn’t do what was supposed to, it was still delicious, though insanely rich. We could only stomach a few bites.

Our conclusion is that Wasabi is a bit hit-or-miss. Perhaps the night after Valentine’s Day is an off evening, or standards slip slightly when the owner isn’t here, or perhaps we’re just asking a bit much for top-end Japanese food in a poor Indian city. Given what we’ve seen of Mumbai, I’m sure this is stellar cuisine for the locale, but it doesn’t hold up to the world-class establishments Morimoto is known for, especially given we are spending L.A. prices on this meal. That said, I have a renewed appreciation for everyday luxuries back home in L.A after seeing first hand a city like Mumbai.

No nonsense noodles


I made it through TSA security with only 20 minutes until boarding. Normally this would mean a sad sandwich packaged the previous night for $15. Luckily I’m at SFO and for a small airport the food options look surprisingly good. I pass up the packaged sandwiches, gourmet picnic foods, as well as the specialty pizza and hot sandwiches, choosing instead the sushi and noodle counter, Wakaba. Mesmerized by videos of Mt. Fuji, I quickly get a bowl of beef udon and a cold bottle of Sapporo while keeping track of my flight out of the corner of my eye. (Since when does TSA allow glass inside the security point?)


The broth is light, slightly sweet and very hot. The noodles and seaweed are nicely al dente. The beef is flavorful, but over cooked and not as tender as it should be. And after a long day of meetings, the Sapporo really hits the spot. Alas, I have to rush, and don’t get to finish the broth or last few sips of beer.

Does it hold up to a great noodle house? No. But it’s 40 feet from my gate. Besides, what’s being served inside your airport?